The ongoing series in which local performers interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and Louisiana communities. Ordinarily, performances are live, free, and open to the general public. Due to COVID-19, readings are currently produced as podcasts.
The 2020 Season:
In the manner a visual can affect us directly rather than the same point explained in many words, this image evokes Letters Read programming for 2020. Thank you Wallace Merritt for the use of this photograph. It refers to many cultural triggers such as identity, stigma, language, and law.
LETTERS READ 2020 Season, current:
Blanchard, “Skip” Ward was a gay activist in rural Louisiana during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and into the beginning of the 21st century. His home was in Pineville across the river from Alexandria.
Skip became increasingly involved in LGBTQIA activism in the early 1980s when he first came out. Or, as he would have phrased it, “came up front” about his sexuality. He co-founded the Unitarian/Universalist Church’s Gay Caucus. He also created Louisiana’s first publication tailored to its gay population, called Le Beau Monde. Ward held some form of membership with nearly every Louisiana LGBTQIA organization from the 1970s onward and was particularly active in the Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus (LAGPAC), a political activist organization, and the Radical (or Raedical) Faeries, a national organization for rural-based gender and sexual non-conforming spiritualists.
The emcee for this event is Shannon Flaherty, co-artistic director of Goat in the Road Productions (GRP). Frank Perez, president of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana reads as the voice of Northern Louisiana conservative clergy. Two other ensemble GRP members are part of this reading. Owen Ever reads as the voice of Skip Ward and Dylan Hunter is the audio engineer on this production. Original music is composed and performed by Dylan as well.
Ward’s letters provide a rare glimpse into rural gay life and the political struggles of the 1980s and 1990s. —excerpted from the caption to “Letter to A Friend Just Coming Up Front”, in the online exhibit, Women and Gender.
The 14th Letters Read and first produced remotely and podcast.
Originally scheduled for March 26 at Frenchman Art & Books in New Orleans, this event was preempted by the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak. Instead, listen to Dylan Hunter reading as the voice of our subject. Rebecca Hollingsworth is Anne. Both self-recorded in the safety of their own home. Our emcee is Frank Perez, President of LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana. Frank was recorded through a telephone conversation with Dylan. Dylan is also our audio engineer for this event. Music is written and performed by Rob Hudak.
This event provides a rare glimpse into the personal life of an important Louisiana political activist. It begins with the 1967 correspondence from Anne, an intimate friend. The reading weaves in annual Valentine’s letters beginning in 1999 that, as recently as this year, were still mailed to 200 of his dearest friends.
Since the 1970s, Butler has been a significant force in the Louisiana civil rights movement. In 1984, 1986, and 1991 he strategically advocated for changing gay-rights ordinances. Butler was a co-founder of LGPAC (the Louisiana chapter of Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus) and has served on boards including the Lesbian and Gay Community Center, PFLAG, and LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana.
Thanks go Antenna, our fiscal agent. To David Zalkind, owner, Frenchman Art & Book, and to Dancing Grounds from whom we were borrowing chairs. The live audio engineer was to be Steve Chyzyk, Sonic Canvas Studio. Thanks also go to Bill Hagler, John Magill, Robert Feiseler, and Courtney Sharp for providing background and context. Thank you Letters Read narrative and storytelling advisors Ted Cotton and Cassie Pruyn.
LETTERS READ 2020 Season, upcoming:
A Podcast with Actors George Saucier and Colin Miller.
Inspired by the work of Tennessee Williams.
Date to be announced.
This production is a conversation about being an actor, theatre as an art form, ruminations about Tennessee Williams, the Southern Gothic genre, and the arc of one’s career. In collaboration with Acting Up (In Acadiana) and with particular help from Amy Waguespack, Artistic Director, and founder of Acting Up.
Sound recording and audio engineering by Steve Chyzyk, Sonic Canvas Studio in New Orleans, and Paul Broussard, Leap Studio in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Letters from Louisiana Veterans
Bastion, community of resilience
1901 Mirabeau Avenue, New Orleans.
Questions? Contact us!